PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- Three-and-a-half months after severely injuring his spine in a football game, Penn State freshman Adam Taliaferro walked out of a hospital Friday on crutches.
"I never thought of it as a nightmare. I thought of it as a freak accident that happened to occur to me," Taliaferro, 19, of Voorhees, N.J., said.
Taliaferro expects to return to classes at Penn State this summer. He won't play football again, but he was content just to walk again.
"He saved my life on the field that day. Without him, I wouldn't be here today." Adam Taliaferro, Penn State freshman about Dr. Wayne Sebastianelli, Penn State athletic medicine director
"I've still got a lot of work to do, but I'm just thankful to get home," Taliaferro said before leaving Magee Rehabilitation Hospital.
He will continue with outpatient therapy five days a week. His lead doctor, William Staas Jr., the hospital's president and medical director, said Taliaferro should be walking without crutches in a few weeks.
The former defensive back said he was not in pain, except for the fatigue he feels after four to five hours of therapy each day.
He was surrounded by his parents, Andre and Addie Taliaferro, and his younger brother, Bill; a phalanx of doctors and therapists; and well-wishers from both Penn State and Eastern High School in Voorhees.
In his senior year at Eastern, Taliaferro was The Philadelphia Inquirer's all-area high school football player of the year.
"In high school, he was the man. He scored all the points, all the time," said teammate Chaz Brown, one of a half-dozen high school friends at the hospital Friday.
Brown said their high school coaches sometimes kidded the players, saying they simply waited for the man with the S on his chest -- Taliaferro -- to score.
"I always called him Superman," Brown said. "I knew he was going to walk again. So, I'm just waiting for him to fly."
Taliaferro, a true freshman, was injured making a headfirst tackle in the Sept. 23 game at Ohio State. His head connected with the knee of 231-pound running back Jerry Westbrooks, causing Taliaferro's neck to snap back. His spinal cord was severely bruised, but not severed.
He had successful spinal fusion surgery at Ohio State Medical Center before being transferred to Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia.
Taliaferro thanked the doctors and therapists who pushed him in his recovery.
Dr. Wayne Sebastianelli, Penn State's director of athletic medicine, treated Taliaferro in the crucial minutes after the injury.
"He saved my life on the field that day," Taliaferro said as Sebastianelli, nearby, fought back tears. "Without him, I wouldn't be here today."
The Penn State community has raised more than $200,000 to pay expenses not covered by insurance or the NCAA's catastrophic coverage. Any remaining money will go toward a fund in Taliaferro's name that will assist other college athletes who sustain career-ending injuries.
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